It was calm and peaceful. The water was steady and the breeze was fresh. The sunlight reflected beautifully off of the turquoise ocean water. This was at the spectacular coastline of Bermuda where our adventure cat Luna and her at mom, Katrina are sitting on a kayak enjoying the view.
When I saw that photo, I couldn’t help but admire how impressive Luna is with water! Have you ever wondered what type of training she had gone through to do that? I sure did!
I reached out to Katrina to learn more about her experience and insights of her amazing adventures with Luna. I truly appreciated her time in providing me with her perspective of cat adventuring.
If you would like to follow Katrina and Luna’s adventures, be sure to check out their Instagram Page (@luna_misty_blue)!
1. Tell me a little about Luna.
Luna is a two-year-old Russian blue cat. She is very smart, feisty, sassy, but also sweet. She’s extremely curious and independent in that she knows what she wants, and she’ll try to get it.
She really likes to be with me, so she wants to keep tabs on me to make sure that she’s close to me especially inside but when we are outside, she likes to lead the way to show me where she wants to explore.
Luna has been going outside starting on our porch from when she was about four months old, and she’s been exploring for almost exactly 2 years now.
We live right by the water, and Luna really enjoys exploring the coastline. We can go down to the dock, walk along the rocks on the coast from our house and back. She also loves to explore our yard, climb trees, watch birds, or hang out on the porch. There are a couple of local parks that she really enjoys as well.
Bermuda is super tiny, almost everything is coastal, so Luna’s got a lot of experience being near the water. She also really enjoys some of the old forts (or fortresses) around Bermuda, because we have almost 100 of them.
One fun fact: Luna is not a Bermudian cat by birth, she was born in London England, and flew here to meet me.
2. When did you start taking Luna out for cat adventures?
Before I brought Luna home, I knew that I didn’t want her to be an indoor/outdoor cat, because I would be worried about her safety outside on her own. I also wasn’t totally thrilled with her being an indoor cat only because I wanted her to have the opportunity to use her instincts, get some fresh air, and do natural cat things in a safer way.
So, I had her harness and leash waiting for her, hoping that she would be interested in it. We did some harness training inside, and then just stepped out on the porch. She really loved to sniff the air and look at the birds. So, we started going to the yard next, which is close to the ocean. She became bolder and bolder. In the matter of a couple of weeks, we were getting really close to the ocean!
3. How did Luna start her water adventures, and how did she first react to the new water activities?
Because I grew up on the water and we live by the water, it sort of went hand-in-hand to see if Luna would enjoy some of the ocean activities that I enjoy.
Once I knew that she was curious about the ocean, and comfortable going near it at our house, we started doing some things close to the water and on the water. I thought that she would maybe enjoy some of the same activities as I do, and I started thinking about letting her do some water adventures too.
You wouldn’t necessarily expect every cat to enjoy that or to get used to water adventures quickly. I think it’s mostly because Luna was already used to being near the water which made it an easier transition for her.
4. Tell me about the activities you have done with Luna on water?
The kayak is probably Luna‘s favourite. We started with the kayak by sitting in it on land, and she walked all around on it. On the same day, I put the kayak in the water and she didn’t seem too concerned. I decided that I would get in and paddle for a little bit and see how she did. She was looking really comfortable, still walking around the kayak, sniffing lots, so then we decided to go a little bit further. We ended up going to one of the islands that is across the harbour from our house, and she did really well with that!
Kayaking has become one of our go to adventures in the summer and we sometimes go in the winter too. Whenever we kayak, we tend to go to a destination where Luna can get out and explore. That’s something that really works for her, since she wants to be doing something and getting somewhere. She is a cat who wants to explore with a purpose, and feels that “I want to go to this boat or I want to go to the island.” For some cats having an end goal in mind is useful.
Once Luna was comfortable with kayaking, I thought we would try to do some other activities. Because we live really close to the water, it was important for me to know that Luna could be safe near the water if she accidentally fell in it. Therefore, we started with the boogie boards or bodyboard that would get her closer to the water.
I would stand in the water and Luna would balance on the board. We did a little bit on the land as well to build up to going in the water. It takes a little while to get used to the balance of it so that’s something that she worked on. Again, she liked it more once we started going somewhere.
The boogie board is a lot more open than the kayak and Luna is closer to the water. It is also less stable, and on top of that, there isn’t an obvious safe space because it’s so small. On the kayak, she has her backpack, so if there was a boat or a person coming close to us and she got scared, she could hop into her backpack to feel comfortable and safe.
The boogie boards are so small that there isn’t really the option for that, which is something she is still getting used to. If there are too many passing strangers, and she doesn’t like it, then I would go back to the dock which is okay because I want her to enjoy the experience.
After the boogie board, we started practicing to see if Luna could swim for safety reasons. I would have her on my shoulders or in my arms as I waded in the water. Of course, in a place where I could stand safety.
Eventually, she got comfortable and would walk or sit on my shoulders. She would also look around, sniff things, and then she was getting curious enough to go down closer to the water. I would let her crawl lower and have a look. Then, at one point, she started putting her paws in the water and doing a paddling motion.
They say that cats are natural swimmers, and that definitely was the case for Luna because when I let her go, she just started paddling and swimming. She’s actually a really strong swimmer. She can swim quite a distance, and when she’s done, she hops out and shakes herself off. Luna likes to have a destination. She doesn’t just like to swim around in circles. She also has days where she wants to swim, and days where she’s not interested.
As for me, the most important thing is that if she fell off the dock she would be totally fine, because she can just turn around and swim back.
Last summer, we learned to stand up paddleboard. I’m still a beginner so it’s a bit wobbly but I’m confident that I can move without capsizing her. We usually try to go on a really nice calm and flat day to make it easier for us both. I don’t take her backpack on the paddleboard, so if she gets scared of something, she tends to jump on my shoulder. Paddleboarding is a nice way to give her a different view and a different type of adventure.
Ferry & Catamaran:
Luna’s been on the public ferry and she also went on a tiny catamaran called a hobie cat. It’s the only time that she’s been out into more open ocean past the harbour. She did an awesome job! She’d hop back into her backpack when it was super splashy, but otherwise she walked around and explored.
5. What are some of the trainings you recommend for water activities?
For cats that are a little bit unsure or new to water adventures, I would take it really slowly.
Choose lots of adventures with water access or water features.
Give them lots of treats and encouragement for every brave step they take closer to the water.
Gradually work up to being right next to the water.
I do believe in gently pushing your cat’s comfort zone and pushing their boundaries carefully. You don’t want them to be afraid or have a negative experience. I think that it’s okay if the cats are in that apprehensive stage, where they are still looking to you to see if it the situation or activity is alright.
Luna checks in with me a lot for new things. She’ll look at my face as if she was asking “Is it OK? Is it all right that we are doing this?” That’s the time for encouragement and treats! So they would learn that this is an okay activity, and you are happy that they’re doing it.
When they become comfortable, to the point that they don’t need to check in with you anymore, then that’s the time to push that boundary a little bit to see if they can try the next activity. If they never become comfortable with it then that’s also okay. You don’t want them to be scared or feel upset because they need to enjoy the adventures. Sometimes, it just takes a little bit of practice and desensitization to become familiar and comfortable.
The water activities training is quite similar.
Get used to the equipment on land first.
Try it stationary in the water.
Give lots of encouragement and treats.
Go a short distance and then gradually increase the distance you travel.
Stop or go back a few steps if there’s any indication that your cat is not comfortable.
6. What was your biggest worry when you were taking Luna out on the water?
I think at the beginning, my biggest worry was that she wouldn’t like it, and would end up being left at home. Because she has FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), she doesn’t like being left behind. If she sees me leaving, she wants to come as well.
As we got used to more water adventures, it became more worrying that if I was by myself, and she stopped liking something, she might need to wait for a while until we got back to shore.
As I said, we don’t tend to go too far from home, especially because I’m most often by myself exploring with Luna, and she tends to enjoy it.
If we are doing a further adventure like on the kayaks, I’ll always have her backpack. For some of the other activities, like swimming, boogie boarding, or paddle boarding, then I will just be at the dock with her or near the shoreline. So if need be, I could just head back quickly and get out.
I haven’t been too worried about any other type of safety, because I’m quite a strong swimmer and know the places we go. I could always hold her above my head and swim back. If the kayak capsizes, I know Luna can swim and she would just find somewhere to swim to and climb onto. She also has her life jacket.
7. Have you ever had a frightening incident while being on water with Luna?
I haven’t really had any frightening experiences with Luna. I would say, in general, I’m more cautious than she is. At first I would be worried if she looked like she was going to jump off the kayak or paddleboard, but now I know if she jumps off, she can swim back.
In the beginning, she would jump off and try to swim to somebody else’s boat, I’d be like, “oh no! Come back, that’s not allowed!” but now I’m just used to that and can scoop her up and put her back on the kayak.
8. What should we look out for while being on water?
I would say always let somebody know where you are when you are out on the water. Always have a phone or radio as a way of getting in contact with people, and always check the tides and weather forecast.
Be aware of your surroundings, and know your own comfort and familiarity with the water you are exploring in. You can also go with somebody that is very comfortable and familiar with water safety, so that you can make sure your cat is also safe.
9. What is your recommendation or tips for training a cat who dislikes water?
If I had a cat that didn’t like water, my first question would be how important is it that they’re near the water?
For most cats, it’s not really going to be important. If you live by the water, and it’s a safety thing, then you will need to do some training to get them used to the water. If it’s just that you want them to swim, and they’re not interested, then I would say listen to your cat and don’t do it.
I would also say to have a safe space like a backpack, and make sure to spend a lot of time near the water. Get them used to the sights and smells in different times and ways. Let them see it when there are some waves, even if that’s not the best situation, or when there are some people. Then, pick the calmest of the times, that they’re most comfortable with, to push the boundaries.
10. What are the essential items you bring while being out on water adventures?
We live by the ocean, so fresh water for drinking is important, also, always have some treats. Have a safe spot or backpack, either on the water or near the dock, so it’s close enough to reach if it is required. We do have cat sunblock, but we try to go exploring in a time when it isn’t too hot, like early mornings or sunsets, to prevent Luna from overheating. We also have sunglasses, but Luna doesn’t love them so we just avoid the bright times. She is used to having a cooling bandana or a cooling shirt for the summer, and she is used to getting doused with some fresh water to prevent overheating. I do have a life jacket that Luna wears when we’re going into deep water or if the water is not very calm.
11. What are some of the things we need to consider when finding a good life jacket?
There’s a couple of different types of life jacket, a thin neoprene that’s more comfortable for a lot of cats, but doesn’t keep them as far out of the water; a thicker foam which keeps them far out of the water, but is a little bit bulkier and can impact balance.
If you’re looking for safety, then go for the thicker foam. If you’re are always in shallow water, then the neoprene might be better.
12. How to assess whether the jacket fits appropriately?
I wanted something that would not only keep her body out of the water, but would also keep her chin out of the water. Check the balance to make sure that it doesn’t push their head downwards, but rather keeps their chin and their head up out of the water.
Also, make sure that the chin strap that goes around their neck isn’t too tight, and isn’t pressing on their windpipe. I know that sometimes cats pull, and that can be very unsafe.
I tend to have the velcro pointing downwards towards her chest, and not going totally across her throat because I don’t want it to press on her throat.
You should be able to fit two fingers underneath for safety, but also have it tight enough that it’s not spinning or moving as your cat is walking. The foam lifejackets will sometimes affect their balance, so be careful if your cat likes to jump or climb with it on!
One of the things that I really like about her current life jacket is that there’s a handle on the top. So if Luna jumps off the kayak, I don’t have to worry about scooping from under her body. I can just grab the handle until she’s close enough to be pulled out.
13. What could be one of the biggest mistakes cat owners make while being on water adventures?
I think one of the biggest mistakes is trying to make your cat a water cat. If they hate it, then there’s no reason to force them into the water. And the total opposite to that, I would also say it’s a mistake to give up too quickly.
If I just judged whether Luna liked water from how she was inside the house, I might not have tried the things we have. Although she does play in the sink and will sit in the bathtub, she doesn’t love baths. She also doesn’t like walking in puddles, so you might think she doesn’t like water, but she actually does!
Judge by their curiosity, try a few different water experiences with them, go at their pace. Be consistent for a few weeks or a few months. After that, you might be able to say you tried it and they definitely didn’t like it, or you tried it and they’re getting used to it.